Tuesday, May 10, 2011


It's no wonder that with my pending nuptials, I've had weddings on the brain lately. William and Kate only exacerbated my obsessions, but I have to admit that I've had a lovely time planning our wedding.

As the countdown ticks away (three weeks or so), my thoughts are not only circling weddings, but marriage itself. This is a tricky subject, and everyone has their own opinion on what makes a successful marriage and how this type of partnership should work. Coming from a divorced family, I've had serious worries about how to make sure mine is a marriage that will withstand the test of time. Dear comes from a parentage that only ended when his mom sadly passed away from Pancreatic Cancer -- two days shy of their 42nd wedding anniversary. When confronted with my endless questions of what is marriage, how to make it work and why the hell do we do it in the first place, I decided I needed to do some research.

I asked a couple of friends for advice on their marriages, especially in the early stages (since my friends that ARE married are all under the 5-year mark) and it quickly became apparent that -- duh -- every couple is different. Every couple deals with arguments, hard times, groceries, chores, and splitting up family holidays completely differently. As much as I appreciated the advice I was getting, I realized that I was curious as to WHY people get married nowadays. Why, in the day and age that it's much more widely accepted to have kids, live together, do everything you would normally do while being married without actually getting married: why do we keep doing this? Yes, it's nice to have the tax breaks and a big blowout party with all your friends and loved ones ... but the average wedding costs between $27,000 - $30,000, and that's a LOT of money to spend on one day. So why do we do it?

There's a man named John Gottman who has made a bit of a name for himself in couples counseling. He and his wife (another marriage counselor type) claim that they can predict, with up to 90% accuracy, whether or not a marriage will end in divorce, simply by observing a couple, any couple, for 15 minutes. I was recommended a copy of his Seven Principles for Making Marriage Work, and it contains some good advice for couples who are new or established. He has some great exercises that are all about getting to know each other, how to speak to each other during arguments, and pitfalls to avoid. John Gray's Mars and Venus Together Forever was also helpful in describing how a man's mind is different from a woman's mind, but tends to repeat itself and it reads like it's dumbing down clinical speak (which I suppose it is).

By far, the best book I have read on this subject (and I'll admit: I'm probably not done yet) is Committed: A Love Story, by Elizabeth Gilbert (of Eat, Pray, Love fame). A woman at a knit group recommended this to me, and I jumped at it because I Eat, Pray, Love was one of the best books I've read in a long time. This book is a follow-up where Liz and Felipe (the dreamy Brazilian man she falls in love with at the end of EPL) are faced with the one thing they agreed they never wanted to do: get married. Felipe hits a snag with US Customs and the only way he'll be allowed back into America is if he and Liz get hitched. They have to travel around for a while while his immigration status goes through the leagues and depths of bureaucracy, and Liz takes this time to do research (ha! Irony, that is) on marriage to try to make her peace with it. It's an incredibly well-written book and while it doesn't offer suggestions for how to handle your own marriage, it does contain a history, and general thoughts on the subject itself (including expectation, autonomy, ceremony, and others).

I've found a few other books that talk about this subject (a few? Try hundreds), and while I still want to keep reading up on the subject, I also think I need to take a break. Reading all these books about it only makes me overthink things, and I'm already a worrier ... so now that we're on the edge of the three-week countdown, I'm thinking that it would be much less stressful if I put my energy towards letting it ride ... I've made my decision, and I couldn't be happier with it. I love my Dear, and I'm so thrilled and lucky to be able to marry my sweetheart. To me, he's the most heartbreakingly handsome man in any room, and there aren't too many people who can make me laugh as hard. We have a great partnership, and we have everything that we need to take the next leap of faith. I'm tying on my Dear-shaped parachute and venturing forth.

Watermelon Gazpacho

I've been trying to make some new goals for myself. Small goals that are easily obtainable and I'm hoping will make differences in several different aspects of my life. One of these I mentioned earlier: eating a little more locally. This can sometimes be difficult, but so far I feel like I've at least managed to make some healthy and delicious meals for myself and Dear. This will probably become even easier as the summer progresses and the Farmers Markets get more stocked and my own garden starts generating (or even ... once I get it planted).

Another goal that I've set is to make at least one vegetarian meal a week. I figure this will help Dear and I save a little on expensive produce (especially produce that's chockfulla hormones and who knows what else) and try out new recipes to boot. I've started reading a couple blogs that promote vegetarian eating, and there are some really great recipes to be found (check out my friend and fellow Purchase alum, The Cozy Herbivore).

This week, I tried a recipe that I had a few years ago and have just never made myself: Watermelon Gazpacho. This is a fairly simple and tasty recipe, served cold like the traditional Gazpacho. It's a great kick-off to summer, and even better in the dead heat of Midsummer, taking advantage of all sorts of different flavors. Be forewarned: there is a LOT of chopping that goes into this. You might be most comfortable pulling a chair up to your counter, or setting a few towels down on the table and sitting while you chop. The messiest part is the juicy watermelon and tomatoes, but other than that, it's super easy! Beware of the serrano pepper, too -- it can burn your skin. I wore clean dishgloves while I chopped mine, but you can use regular rubber gloves from the cleaning aisle, as long as they are CLEAN. Please use common sense -- don't use the rubber gloves you scrubbed the toilet with over the weekend, for the love of Pete.

Watermelon Gazpacho

8 c seedless watermelon (about 1 1/2 of the tiny watermelons)
4 c tomato (about six or seven in total)
4 large avocados
1 cucumber
1 serrano pepper, seeded
2 T olive oil
Salt and Pepper to taste

Put 7 cups of the watermelon and 3 1/2 cups of the tomatoes into a blender and puree until smooth. Transfer puree into a large bowl using a fine mesh strainer to separate the solids. Press as much of the solids through as will go, then throw the rest out.

Finely chop the remaining ingredients and toss them in with the pureed watermelon and tomato mess. Add salt and pepper to taste, and stir gently. Cover and refrigerate at least one hour before serving. Garnish with feta or goat cheese and fresh dill.